Gender in Technology: Feature or Culture?

I was pretty tired when i got home last night: a long day in London, a delayed train home, it was gone midnight when i opened the door and stepped inside. Only as i was falling asleep did i realise what had happened: at a session with around forty people, gathered to share ideas and stories about emerging wearable technology, i don’t recall seeing more than five or six woman. Including the receptionist. And the person serving the food.

Gender in Technology

There are many women in technology, and many role models of women in senior positions, but it got me thinking: what factors exclude women, is it the types of devices, the functionality of those devices, our culture or the career opportunities that exist? Why do we see women ‘breaking into‘ technology when men don’t have to? Why are so many of the role models exceptional because they have fought their way to the top? Why is there a fight?

It’s not an insignificant question: the Social Age is facilitated by technology. Is that technology built by and for men, or by and for women? Or is it agnostic? It’s not just a question of equality and fairness: it’s a question of effectiveness. If there’s some inbuilt bias in the software or technology, we are deploying an uneven playing field between the genders.

No doubt culture plays a part: even when i was growing up, girls were studying ‘domestic science‘ whilst the boys studied metalwork. My father worked, my mother worked part time and kept the home. Engineers were men. Librarians were women. It’s common now for men or women to be developers or engineers, but is it women playing in a man’s world, or a level playing field for everyone? Where is the institutionalised inequality, where are the battles left to fight?

I asked around: Petra, “I think it comes back to the grass routes thing maybe, education/what other kids were doing… That ‘intimidation’ Dionne mentions, fewer other girls being into it so less natural a field to pursue?” A notion that you are a pioneer or tomboy if you pursue technology?

Clearly attitudes are evolving and maybe removing barriers, but i was still shocked by how male dominated that room was as it was grass roots level: active developers and explorers, the people shaping the technology.

To my shame, i shared a story yesterday in a meeting: i was listening to the radio on an article about neuroscience. The news reader kept saying, ‘the scientists think this…‘, until at the end he said ‘she‘ and i could feel it trip in my head. My assumption had been that the neuroscientist was a man. It’s like cars: my assumption is that when i take my car to the garage, a man will fix it. I’m not particularly right or wrong, i’m just wired to think like that through experience and culture. But it doesn’t mean i should accept it unquestioningly.

The Social Age is facilitated by technology: what is the fundamentals are skewed? What if we are operating in a world designed by men, for men, with features and functions, devices and interactions that men have designed? A technologist yesterday described how they had ‘tested a device with women‘, as though that was how it works: we build for men and test for women. I may be being radically unfair, but inequality, even if only a small factor, is still a factor. If the foundations of the Social Age are uneven, we cannot truly be equal.

Some cultures still frown on women being engineers or software developers. Some don’t even let women drive cars. The bias is real: it’s our fight to overcome it. And for anyone working in a global business that is trading today, this is a real fight, not an abstract thought.

Opportunities may not exist and when they do the recruitment process may be biased.

Petra again: “I think it’s a matter of what the community expects you to be interested in tailoring more of your actions and interests as a kid then one thinks? I was always called a ‘tomboy’ for being into certain sports, for having a motor bike, for having gadgets. And a big part of me did think ‘hey, maybe I should be more girly’ and maybe that shaped a lot of the relationship to technology.

It may be a matter of desire. Caron raises an interesting perspective: “I’m generally not that interested in technology unless it has a useful practical application – couldn’t really give a monkeys about tech specs etc…..even tho I worked in technology – loved it much more when Apple saw the consumer appeal – looks nice, does some useful stuff, now I can play music, take pix etc….rather than about processing power etc… I think generally (and this is probably hugely stereotyping) – there’s still a lot of men that love technology for technology sake but that appeals a lot less to the female psyche – I just want to see the point of it not what it’s made of. Now the world is more app-oriented though maybe that will change…….

Maybe (at least in our generations) there are differences in our attitude to technology that are deeply routed. Maybe we currently identify them as ‘male‘ or ‘female‘ traits, but in time they will simply be ‘technology‘ and ‘function‘ traits. People who care how stuff works, people who care what it does.

The Social Age is very much about what the technology does: the device and chipset is irrelevant. It’s how it facilitates our ‘sense making‘ functions that counts, how it lets us curate and share.

Petra: “I just really don’t think there’s such a thing as a basic female ‘mind’ that biologically reacts with more or less interest to technology. We grow up with preconceptions and notions based in the society we spend most time in and they become part of our personalities and shape some (although not all) interests. I don’t see the difference between a man not into tech and a woman who is – why would the change be anything beyond personality and society? To me it’s the same as the lack of men in dance classes for kids, or lack of girls in the football camps over here. Where I grew up girls in football was a huge thing and normal, and yet here the perceptions seem really different.

For young people, role models are important: in this transitional phase, i guess it’s inevitable that those role models will be pioneering women, but hopefully they will, increasingly, just be pioneers.

One aspect of the gender dynamics of technology is still unclear in my mind: the extent to which the hardware, the genres of devices, are affected by historic gender influence. Was it men, addicted to email, that led to the BlackBerry? Or am i imagining this? Looking under rocks for skeletons that don’t exist.

I’m not sure: it strikes me that there is still imbalance: almost certainly in the functions, design and opportunities presented by technology. Whilst i’m sure things are improving, it’s on my mind that it may influence how we behave in social spaces.

One of the components of Social Leadership is Social Capital: the humility to put the needs of others before ourselves, the desire to fight for equality, the need to ensure nobody is disenfranchised through the technology that is supposed to help us. Man or woman. It’s irrelevant: it’s about equality.

Posted in Equality, Gender, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Ages of Knowledge

Today I signed off the cover design for the Social Leadership Handbook. And tonight I’m meeting up at the GoogleGlass Basecamp with other Explorers. Both things relate to knowledge: one a curated space, the other a tool for curation. We share books, static collections of information, in depth analysis and reflection. With Glass, we curate images and sound bites, share them widely and immediately with little reflective space.

The Ages of Knowledge

Books are old. Glass is new.

Our relationship with knowledge is evolving: in itself, it’s become more readily available, easily accessed, but the meaning we create (and co-create) in our communities can remain elusive.

The challenge for organisations is to support this sense making process, not simply throw us the knowledge. That’s where social learning approaches excel.

It’s an odd day: the dichotomies feel real: I’m committing thoughts to paper whilst committing to the technology. And the paper i write on is digital.

Knowledge may be forever, but the mechanisms and channels through which we relate to it are agile, ever changing.

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#GoogleGlass: Agile Ecosystem of Technology

My conversations about Google Glass are falling into a pattern: ‘what is it?‘, ‘what does it do?‘, ‘what about *insert name of other technology*‘. The gadgets in our lives are no longer viewed in isolation: we’re interested in the ecosystem and the agility of everything that invades it. The honeymoon period is ever shorter.

Google Glass: the ecosystem of agility

iPhones, Fuel Bands, Rifts and Glass, Strava or Shazam, they’re all just part of a world we interact in: a world that we increasingly expect to serve our social needs, not dictate our actions or take a month to master.

It’s got 12gb storage‘, i tell a bored audience. Nobody cares. It’s abstract now: the days we used to worry about storage are long gone (in front of me on my desk is a wooden bowl containing those oddities we collect in life: stray keys, some loose change from Asia, the spare button from a shirt and several orphaned memory sticks, 4 or 8 mb. Redundant technology from a bygone age).

I’ve taken to wearing Glass all the time: because to truly explore it’s purpose, to find out how to integrate it into the ecosystem, i need to just use it. I’m making video diaries: sure, i could do it on the phone, but i never used to. I have to explore new behaviours to see how Glass meets those needs.

I’m trying to explore in categories: curation, storytelling, sharing. They’re my primary interests. But i’ll also see what emerges: whilst we are certainly years away from mainstream applications of the technology in organisations, we need to be open to ideas, open to understanding how the era of the smartphone won’t last forever.

My guess? A centralisation of processing power and storage into one device, with other sensors and devices networked off it. In my shoes, on my glasses, on my wrist, in the car, but all integrated and sharing widely. But who knows. It’s early days. The thing we know for sure is that the technology alone will no longer dazzle us: it’s the application that counts.

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#GoogleGlass: The New Puppy?

Contrary to reports from America, nobody has yet abused or mugged me after two weeks sporting my Google Glass. There has been a certain level of notoriety: i’d estimate i’ve spoken to a hundred strangers who have asked about and tried them on. These range from a bus conductor, waitress and stranger in the street, to my mum. Who isn’t a stranger. But was a stranger to Glass.

Emergent Technology

It’s rather like having a puppy.

Everyone notices it. Everyone wants to touch it. Most people say they’d like one. Everyone wonders it it’s eaten the curtains yet. Nobody kicks it because it’s cute.

Emergent technology goes through stages: ‘excitement‘, ‘doubt‘, ‘fear‘, ‘failure‘.

We start, excited by the potential: often technology precedes the problem it solves. We strive to find the purpose of it, to find the applications. SMS messaging was an accidental success. The first person to bolt a camera onto a phone was laughed at. Where technology leads, we try to identify the benefits.

Then reality bites as the puppy grows older: those initial applications, do they really work, are they really better than what we had before? “How’s it different from your smartphone” asked Mark yesterday? Uncertainty: we like it, although it’s quite cute, we’re no longer sure it’s a world changer.

Fuelled by the media, fear then sets in: killer dog in Morocco, man mugged with Glass in New York, imminent apocalypse as CORPORATIONS steal our souls. Where technology leads us, ethics and social acceptance follow behind. Sometimes stigma emerges.

Finally, something fails: if the technology is not yet mature enough, it may be the device. If the technology succeeds, it’s predecessor fails, made redundant by evolution. Successful technology gives a payback. At some point, i need to put my Google Glass on in the morning and feel that it’s worth the effort.

Once it’s all grown up and no longer a puppy, once nobody stops me to talk about it anymore, once it’s had it’s honeymoon, i have to ask if it’s worth it. Did it come with benefits built in, or have i managed to find it’s purpose? I’m exploring curation, storytelling, sharing, collaboration and co-creation. I’m producing a Glass Diary over on Google+, but does it really make me more effective, better connected? Is it worth it? Or was it just cute when it was a puppy?

Posted in Learning Technology, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Landscape of Norfolk: Exploring Adaptation, Culture and Dereliction

Norfolk has a lot of churches: climb the rickety stairs to the top of a tower and you will probably see half a dozen more within just a few miles. Not that you’re allowed to climb many of them anymore: ageing ladders and restrictive safety policies, combined with ecclesiastical thefts and diminishing congregations have left most of the churches locked. Remnants in the landscape: mementoes of an age when redemption came through the Sunday service and a larger church was a badge of pride, not a heritage site.

Norfolk Windmill

Image © Julian Stodd

Our beliefs shape our landscape: as medieval communities congregated they carried flint and mortar, timber and thatch to build a space, to consecrate ground for a purpose. To shape their landscape to meet their needs. They planted hedges and built walls to surround the churchyards and buried the dead with wooden then stone crosses. Memorials: lichen covered, eroded through time. More picturesque than legible when you go back more than a hundred years.

Waxham Barn

Image © Julian Stodd

The barn at Waxham, the largest medieval one in Norfolk, is vast, it’s thatched roof took a year to redo when it was renovated recently. Three cavernous sets of doors open onto the open interior: the threshing floor where the harvest was gathered and processed. A symbol of status, built to outdo the neighbours, it is, itself, recycled: one of the vast roof tie beams is actually a repurposed mast from a shipwreck. The stone frames of the doors are recycled from two local Abbeys, dissolved by the King and sold for scrap when religion changed focus and changed the landscape once again.

No longer housing the harvest, today the barn is empty: renovated as a community space complete with cafe and audio tour. Recently a bike hire shop has colonised one wing of the outbuildings.

The audio tour: “press 212 to find out more“.

A formal narrative (“press 10“, “press 20“, “press 30“) is supplemented by informal stories and reflection. Social learning approaches through a technology that already seems antiquated. Walking around with my Google Glass, i feel too self conscious to record a video, lest i disturb the church like silence of the echoing interior. In the future, i hope parties of children will record, curate, share their stories and co-create a new meaning for this dry space.

Horsey Church

Image © Julian Stodd

Norfolk reed is the best type of thatch: notoriously hard wearing and, in olden days, freely found lining the waterways. Thatching is a profession: you spend a lifetime to master it, consigning yourself to an outdoor life of ladders and rain, scorched summers and twine. Skills of a bygone age. I’m sure you can do an course on it now. The thatch of the barn matches the thatched roofs of the churches, several of which lie in easy view. The buildings create the panorama of the landscape: individual elements combining to form the view.

Waxham is fortunate: just down the road and around the county are many other barns, derelict, collapsed, stood in states of forlorn and twisted majesty. Others, converted, repurposed to residential or commercial use: Wroxham Barns, once home to hay bales and cows, today boasts craft shops, a pottery, several artists, a children’s petting zoo and restaurant. An ariel photo in the toilet shows the old, derelict buildings from the air. History consigned to it’s place: the new subverts the old. A very Social Age trait.

But Norfolk can’t hide it’s past: the landscape is written through the history.

It’s a flat county, the biting North Sea winds rattling through in winter: a natural habitat for windmills, whose carcasses are dotted around, interspersed between the churches and barns. Triangulated between harvest and consumption.

Mills are full of machinery: cogs and belts, timber and iron.

Never iron against iron though: the cogs are made of metal, but the teeth wooden. If two cogs jam, the wooden teeth will break, necessitating replacement, but much easier than rebuilding your mill. There’s another reason though: flour, when suspended as a fine dust in the air, is highly explosive (have you never done that experiment with custard powder, an ice cream tub and a candle…?). A spark from metal against metal would blow the top sky high. “Something needs to give”, we say. Better that the wooden tooth gives.

The National Trust owns Horsey Mill, restored and displayed, complete with gift shop and embryonic coffee shop. A favourite haunt, you can walk out along the side of the Broads, Horsey receding in the skyline. As you do so, a mirror image comes into view: the red brick and white gleaming timbers of Horsey reflected but corrupted in the mill ahead: slumped to the side, it’s roof blown off, the timbers of the sails rotted but stabbing defiantly to the sky. It’s so picturesque (the most photographed mill in the County) and so ridiculously, comically, derelict, the contrast becomes abstract. One mill preserved, frozen, the other slowly decaying, but resplendent in one last burst of glory. Not to go quietly into the dark night.

The heritage preservation effect sterilises landscapes: but dereliction is impermanent. We always strive against change, but at what cost?

Blakeney Point

Image © Julian Stodd

We go sailing: a long drive down to Blakeney, past many of these farms and churches, villages and towns. Walking out into the estuary at low tide, i capture scenes through Google Glass: snapshots of picturesque tourism and decay. At low tide the sun bleached bones of a long dead boat curve out of the mud. I have to queue to take a photo: like visiting the pyramids, the majesty on one side is betrayed by the KFC behind, although in this case it’s a middle aged couple with a distressingly complex SLR camera, clearly beyond the wit of any of us to figure out.

Blakeney Point 2

Image © Julian Stodd

When my turn comes, i frame the shot with my head, then stop to run my hand over the timber. Paint still flecks the surface: layers of it. Blue, white, stained with rust. I can still see the skeleton of the boat, it’s the skin and refinement that’s gone. The purpose has vanished, but the traces remain. Beyond restoration, it’s a living museum now, a technology of wooden boat building largely subverted and subsumed by modern GRP and fibreglass construction. But beautiful: like the barns and mills, slipping into nothingness, it’s glorious in it’s final recital.

Out on the water, i’m less reflective.

Sailing is an immediate activity: the wind catches, the sheets pull, blistering sodden fingers and palms. The sail is an extension of your self. The boat pulls, tips, cries out: as we tack, the jib sheet at the front loses the wind, flaps furiously, cracking and spitting in the rain. It’s alarming, the sound of lost direction. But momentum carries us through the turn, the sail finds the wind and fills, gloriously, magnificently, changing from a wild beast to a mathematical curve.

Hannah, our instructor, is a marine biologist by training: as we jitter over the choppy waters, we discuss plankton, wikipedia and the cost of education but, like a good teacher, she has one eye on the sail, one on us, offering advice, taking control, letting us make our mistakes but in a safe space. With Hannah in the boat, i feel safe, even though it’s my hands on the tiller, my hands directing the power. She doesn’t push me: she lets me push myself.

The experience of sailing is created in the moment: afterwards we have photos and memories. Not wanting to risk Glass to the elements, i use the GoPro to capture it: rugged technology, fit for purpose. No fancy interfaces here: it’s the windmill of it’s time. Functional and direct.

Blakeney Texture

Image © Julian Stodd

Modern life is often about the new: with my iPad and Google Glass, i work with organisations that are changing, adapting to the new, striving to find relevance and purpose in the Social Age. But the past shapes us: our landscape and thinking, our culture and purpose are all shaped by what has come before. We need to reflect on where we have come from to know where we should go.

Change often feels like it’s about facing forwards, but without space for reflection, we are just falling behind. Many organisations are struggling to find their balance: toxic cultures, broken social contracts, a loss of social justice and equity. We lose what is good without ever realising it. Trust, once broken, is hard to build.

Even as our lives become ever more connected and digital, we shouldn’t lose our connection with our environment, our landscape. It gives us perspective and insights.

I could be writing about any number of things today, but time taken to reflect is always valuable: understanding how the landscape evolves, understanding how technology becomes redundancy, how culture is shaped by nature and power, understanding how permanence is illusory, all this can help us chart a course.

When the wind fills the sails, when we feel the immediacy of the momentum, we can get caught up in that. But we exist in a landscape that has evolved over time and, to remain relevant, we have to evolve sympathetically alongside and within it.

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Depression: Reflection

What rings true for me may be alien to you. Our experiences of life are very different. Portfolio of scenes, interlinked, overlaid. Fragments of memories, evolving contexts, friendships loved and lost. The ephemera we collect through life: photographs, clothing, books, records. Memories. More books. Our perspectives shift with age and experience. The things will never make us happy. Our legacy is built of more than brick.

Image © Julian Stodd

Image © Julian Stodd

Our memories of Robin Williams will be tinged with sadness: the outpourings of love and respect coloured by our inability to change the tracks of time. Of loss. Of loneliness.

For all the fame and wealth, to be consumed by your own demons: who can imagine the despair and desperation? Sometimes the barriers we put up prevent others reaching out to us, reaching in to us. We can’t be helped by words alone. For all their power to make us laugh, to make us smile, words too are ephemeral, swatted away by time and circumstance.

Depression is not being sad: depression is about being on a different island. Out of sight, away from other people.

Depression is being surrounded by a sea you cannot swim.

Depression is a perspective that you cannot alter, a frame you cannot shift.

Depression is about stigma and weakness: or maybe that’s what we fear. Who wants to shout about it? It makes me sad to even think about it.

I read once that there must be an evolutionary benefit to depression: the theory being that perhaps those people who experience it develop empathy. I think it’s true. You cannot swim for someone else, but maybe you can shine a light, show the way, even if the footsteps we take are always our own.

For me, depression was like slowly wading out to sea: past your ankles, your knees, your waist, your shoulders, up to your neck, and then the moment when your feet leave the sandy floor and you start to float. Just like that: gentle, but aimless. A lethargy. A loss of direction. Slowly, you become someone else, someone left behind, left outside. Alone on your island.

Redemption is a personal thing: for me, structure and time. Imposing a structure slowly allowed me to find perspective. A toe nudges the ground, your foot touches. You start to walk, pushing through the water. Slowly. Wading, splashing, emerging onto the beach. The cold of the water is just a memory: something that happened to someone else. Because you are someone else: the experiences of life change us, alter us. We learn through depression just as we learn through school.

Some people spend a lifetime wading through tumultuous seas between small islands of calm. Sometimes, they never make it ashore. Fame, money, friends, love: for some, it’s not enough. It’s too far away, to faint to see or hear.

For many, the journey back is slow but steady: depression can be contextual, triggered by loss or grief. We heal. We emerge. Changed, maybe stronger, maybe different.

Should i be ashamed to say i suffered from depression? Lest you think me weak? Lest you fear i’ll fall again? Does writing this expose part of me that i want to keep hidden? No: that was a previous life. The past that makes us into our present self.

And sharing is part of learning.

Image © Julian Stodd

Image © Julian Stodd

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The Business Covenant: Sustainability & Community

When Tesco opened a small branch in the village, it inevitably sounded the death knell for the old bakery next door. The village butcher and greengrocers weren’t far behind. There were grumbles, indeed, there had been a protest, letters to the council, some controversy, but in the end, it’s progress: what can you do. The perpetual march of the super brands, with their distribution hubs, their loyalty schemes and their own brand yoghurt.

The business covenant

We need a new Covenant, between business, government and society. One that delivers value over time.

The baker didn’t exactly know my name, but he certainly recognised me by sight. He was of the community, part of the community in a way that the supermarket never can be. Or never could be anyway.

When my parents took out their first mortgage, they were interviewed by the Bank Manager, in his suit, who made the final decision. The hand written papers were drawn up and stored there, in the branch. Today: it’s online. Things change and part of the disconnect we feel is between the local, which somehow belongs to us, and the multinational, which doesn’t.

The competition is between Starbucks, the global brand, and The Dog House, the characterful local cafe. Both sit five minutes walk from my house, both employ local people, but one pays more tax in the UK and somehow feels like it’s ‘ours‘.

There’s a large insurance company i know, headquartered just around the corner. Most of my friends worked there at one time or another: spending a summer in the call centre after University, maybe doing IT support, one as a secretary. None work there anymore. Transient work, work to fill our time and fill our wallets for summers of BBQs and dreams of foreign holidays. Work to fulfil a need, not a vocation.

The world has changed: more brands, more multinational, more transient. Bigger businesses, bigger profits, less permanence. But something has been lost.

It’s a naive oversimplification to blame the financial crisis on the Banks: government creates a regulatory framework, banks seek to optimise profits within that. Government creates space for competition in energy markets, companies try to maximise sales with clever adverts and obtuse contracts. Everybody wants organic, carbon neutral, gluten free pumpkin bread: everybody wants ‘two for one‘ and cheaper fuel. It’s a complex web of regulation, desire, profits and consumption.

But somewhere in the mix, we often lose something: we lose the ‘local‘ aspect, we lose accountability and fairness, we lose our culture, we lose what’s right.

Right‘ is not shareholder value and dividends.

Right‘ is not bigger profits and more stores.

Right‘ is not a larger storefront or winter sale.

Right is about balance, about equality, about fairness and community value.

Right is about social justice and empathy.

Right is about permanence and commitment to the communities we live in.

It’s a balance that’s often missed.

There’s a large office block downtown, by the station: or rather, there was. All that’s left now is a pile of rubble and some steelwork pointing to the sky. Before the demolition was dereliction: ten years standing empty. Before that, a thriving financial service provider. But when times were tight, they shut up shop, leaving a gap in the landscape and a gap in people’s careers.

Is that volatility right? Is it right to leave a building empty? Is it right to centralise resources and abandon the town, to offshore work to another continent? What’s the nature of the covenant between communities, society, governments, shareholders and individuals.

Currently: it’s too fragmented, too divisive, to much driven by money alone. It needs to be driven by values: shareholder value, sure, but also community value.

Look at the culture in the big Banks: the failings weren’t caused by a small group of individuals. They were caused by permissive environments, by fractures in culture and rifts in trust. Fractures that open up when the disconnect between individual values and corporate culture becomes too great. When the cost of belonging exceeds the cost of integrity.

These organisations are out of balance, out of balance with the societies they exist within and, to a degree, to serve. Not in that older notion of ‘service industries‘, but in the sense of social justice: we commit our time, our integrity, our effort to build these businesses up and deliver value. They, in turn, have a responsibility to us, as individuals and as a society. And government has a part to play too: instead of perpetuating the cat and mouse game of regulation and punishment, greater collaboration.

Many organisations want to do the right thing: they are simply unable to effect the change required. Part of that change will be generated through appropriate regulation, part through strong and clear leadership, much of it though is co-created as a local and community level. We need stronger engagement in this local change.

The CAIR model explores values: it runs facilitated conversations at every level, from execs to frontline staff, and can extend into the community. It’s a structured tool to explore conversations about what’s right and how we get there.

Whatever methodology is used, change is required: the imbalance we feel now is because of the disconnect between what’s legislated for and what’s just right. Legislation will never deliver ‘right‘.

I’ve written about equality widely: but why do we still have to fight this fight? Because, of course, there’s an imbalance. The change is being driven from the top, but it needs to be co-created and co-owned throughout.

The cultural change required by the banks: this won’t be driven just through ‘change programmes‘ and half day workshops. It’s got to be driven by a reassessment of what’s right and, working back from that, how we do the right things. That happens through engagement at every level and by reaching out beyond the four walls into the community. Our communities. The communities that house and nurture us: do you want your organisational legacy to be long term, community value, or a pile of rubble?

Under the current framework, organisations make decisions to enter or leave markets, to expand or consolidate, to grow or to shrink, largely on financial value. That’s a good thing, but we can do better. We can include community value: by rewarding and recognising long term commitment to communities, long term commitment to learning and development, long term commitment to change and equality.

It’s not purely the responsibility of organisations, not purely the banks, the energy companies, the retailers, who have to do this: it’s government and society too.

Look at the co-operative movement: John Lewis, owned by it’s colleagues. Owned by the communities that it inhabits. It’s not the right model for everyone, but it’s a strong inspiration.

There’s nothing wrong with making money: but get the community value right and you can make more money over time, whilst growing and building sustainable trust and integrity. People don’t trust their banks, don’t trust their energy company. Maybe it’s time that trust was earned.

The starting point is reflection and engagement: understanding what the purpose is of the organisation and how it engages with it’s staff, it’s shareholders, it’s communities. From there, we can understand the change required and work towards a better goal. Sustainable value: equality and growth, community based.

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